The Desirability of Autistic Males’ Online Dating Profiles.
A lack of success through traditional, face-to-face dating has led some adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to pursue relationships through online dating. The online dating profile is a significant gateway to the initiation of dating. Research within the general population has suggested that trust is a key variable influencing the desire to interact further with an individual (our definition of desirability) and consistency within the online dating profile has been identified as a key influence of trustworthiness.
To compare the relative impact of both typically-desirable and autistic attributes and interests upon perceived desirability and trustworthiness in online dating profiles.
Participants were 111 females who self-identified as ‘seeking a man’ through online dating. The mean age was 25 years (sd=7, range = 18-57). Participants were recruited through online advertisements and asked to rate the desirability and trustworthiness of a male in an online dating profile (both averaged, range 1-5). Participants also rated their current level of autism knowledge from 1 ‘never heard of it’ through to 4 ‘expert’.
Four online dating profiles were constructed based on the format of the world’s most popular online dating site. All profiles shared generic average physical information such as body type, height and a photo previously rated to be average. The profiles varied in a free text section. The typical attributes (upbeat, confident, good sense of humour) and interests (bike riding, photography, kids and listening to music) were taken from those listed as desirable by the online dating site. The autistic attributes (honest, shy and kind of nerdy) and interests (exercising, watching TV, technology and gaming) were taken from an analysis of autistic online dating profiles. Participants read and rated one of the following combinations:
- a) Autism Attributes, Autism Interests (AA-AI)
- b) Typical Attributes, Typical Interests (TA-TI)
- c) Autism Attributes, Typical Interests (AA-TI)
- d) Typical Attributes, Autism Interests (TA-AI)
A MANCOVA was conducted on desirability and trustworthiness by condition, controlling for level of autism knowledge.
Desirability and trustworthiness significantly correlated with each other (r=.36, P<.001). There was a significant main effect for condition for desirability (F(3,106)=3.50, p<.05) but not trustworthiness (F(3,106)=2.01, ns). The Figure highlights that the consistent profiles were more desirable than the inconsistent profiles, interestingly the consistent autistic profile was the most desirable.
An autistic profile describing autistic attributes and interests was rated as being comparably desirable to a profile describing typically desirable attributes and interests. Whether autistic or typical, presenting attributes and interests that were consistent with each other was more desirable than inconsistent profiles. Previous research has suggested that this effect is driven by perceptions of trustworthiness, but the present study does not fully support this, although trustworthiness and desirability were correlated with each other. The results would suggest that autistic online daters should have profiles consistent in their attributes and interests, and not embed profiles with typically desirable features. It should be noted that this is relative, the consistent profiles have a mean around the midpoint of the 1-5 scale.